When Memory Comes
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excitement about living in Israel at that time, being at ground
zero for the birth of a nation, remains palpable today. "It was
an incredible experience," he says, his face lighting up as his
arms spread open. "I remember it with a glow. Israel had something
heroic about it."
still calls Israel home, and in fact divides his time between Westwood
and Tel Aviv, where he is a professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University.
college soon wore thin, however, and Friedlander turned his attention
to more intellectually rigorous pursuits. After a stint in the Israeli
army, he returned to school full time, attending the School of Law
and Economics in Tel Aviv. Thinking he would become a diplomat,
he earned a master's degree in political science from the Institut
d'Etudes Politiques in Paris. From 1956-'61, he served as secretary
to the president of the World Zionist Organization and as head of
the scientific department of Israel's Ministry of Defense under
future prime minister Shimon Peres, who was then vice minister of
defense in the government of David Ben-Gurion. In the 1980s, Friedlander
was active in the Middle East peace moment, Peace Now.
even while studying political science, Friedlander says he was drawn
to the historical, rather than the political, dimension of that
field. "From there, it was a natural progression to historical studies."
earning a Ph.D. in 1963 from the Graduate Institute of International
Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, Friedlander decided he wanted to
be a teacher. But always hovering just beyond the periphery was
the specter of the Holocaust — a life-defining event that, he says,
shaped not just the destinies of those who went through it, but
also the destinies of their children.
is like a block of stone that you can't remove from your life,"
he says. How does one get beyond, if not over, such a horrific experience?